Date: 18 February 2022
Competition: League of Ireland Premier Division (first tier)
Result: Shelbourne Rovers 0 – 3 St Patrick’s Athletic
Tickets: €15 (adult), €5 (kids)
Attendance: circa 4,400
The game: The opening game of the League of Ireland season, a freezing cold February night that saw newly promoted Shelbourne take on far more established St Patrick’s Athletic in Damien Duff’s first game as a manager (of anyone, but specifically of Shelbourne). Despite the score this was a fairly tight contest, with Pat’s handed the advantage after Darragh Burn scorched a fantastic finish into the corner from about 25 yards in the first half.
From there, Shelbourne were chasing the game and created quite a few chances, especially down the left hand side, but couldn’t put any away. Pat’s were far more clinical and look like a side that will at least challenge for Europe again this season, if not go a little futher. A good game that petered out towards the end with the result obvious. Good entertainment, and televised, too, though – the TV coverage meant a load of glaring spotlights in one corner of the ground, which I’d imagine were quite distracting to the players!
The ground: Tolka Park is currently the subject of a lot of debate in League of Ireland circles, a historic but ramshackle stadium that’s a gem of the league for those who like their football stadiums to look fresh from the 80s (I do). It’s still unclear to me whether it’s going to be ripped down or not – in fact, I think there’s movement in that area even as I write this – but it has lots going for it.
From the shed-like stands to the strange walk across one end that involves a detour up and over the player’s tunnel, Shelbourne is not going to win any awards for modernity, but anyone with a sense of football romance would like the place, the queues to get in for a sold-out game like tonight aside. It’s definitely non-league level by English standards, ground wise. And long may it remain so. The home fans protested throughout the game with ‘Save Tolka Park’ banners.
Extras: Plenty in the way of little shops and merch inside and out (Drumcondra is a little village centre in itself), there was also a Shelbourne fanzine on sale, though I didn’t see any programmes, oddly. We walked in with a bag of chips each from the local Chinese, which felt like a win.
Assorted asides: Surprising amount of security in place even for a Dublin derby (I don’t think this one is a particularly bitter match up), and the parking was a bit of a nightmare. Great to see the place sold out, though.
My totals for the year so far:
Games: 1. Home wins: 0. Draws: 0 Away wins: 1
Goals: 3. Home goals: 0. Away goals: 3. Goals per game: 3